State game officials nixed the practice of trapping bobcats in California in a 3-2 vote on Wednesday. The proscription enacted by the California Fish and Game Commission could be put into effect by the 2015-2016 trapping season, which begins in November.
The commission had been weighing whether to ban trapping or restrict it to portions of the state that are outside of protected lands. Commission staff members had proposed going with the restricted option.
Wide public support may have swung the vote in favor of the statewide ban. A California Fish and Wildlife official said people sent tens of thousands of letters of support for a ban, and dozens of supporters spoke in public testimony at the commissioners’ meeting.
“That relates to the number of bobcat trappers there are," said Fish and Wildlife Department spokeswoman Jordan Traverso. "There are under 200 bobcat trappers in the state, and there are 38 million people, so you can see that it definitely is more a test of the people of the state wanting to ban it rather than the few bobcat trappers wanting to protect their ability to trap.”
Bobcats are not considered to be threatened or endangered. The number of bobcats killed by trapping in the 2013-14 season was nearly 1,300, representing 79 percent of all bobcat takes that year. That's still far from the 14,400 statewide harvest limit.
Trapping advocates said the decision would bar a tradition many enthusiasts share with their families and would make California less attractive for trappers.
Mercer Lawing, director of the California Trapping Association, said the decision also removes potential revenue from the fees generated by trapping.
“On the one hand, they’re removing us from the system as the people that finance this stuff, and then adding on layers of regulation that’s going to cost hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. And that’s at the expense of the taxpayers,” Lawing said.
The ban could go into effect before the next trapping season begins in November.
Supporters of the ban argued the decision was important since it's not known how many bobcats exist in the wild. Patrick Sullivan, a spokesman for the Center for Biological Diversity, said it also ends a practice many find distasteful.
“This is a very slow way for these animals to die. It’s cruel, it’s unacceptable, and the people of California just do not accept it,” Sullivan said.